Waiting on the Lord through crisis. Do you know how hard that is? Anyone who has ever had to probably does. Waiting on the Lord usually means waiting past the endurance of our faith. Let’s face it: It’s easy to be spiritual at the beginning of a crisis, before the reality of it really takes hold. But living with it, especially if the crisis is one of your own making, is hard. It can cause deep despair. You can begin to doubt if God is ever going to show up.
This Psalm recounts the time when the people of Israel were finally released from captivity. Most agree this is in reference to the Babylonian period where Judah fell to King Nebuchadnezzar II and was taken into captivity and later released by King Cyrus. It was a time that spanned 70 years. That covers roughly 2 generations. So, the people returning would be people who’d never stepped foot in the Promised Land before, and a possibly a few for whom the Promised Land was a distant memory.
Having had to wait for so long for this day it’s no wonder they said: “we were like them that dream.” Returning to the Promised Land was something prophesied to them by men like Jeremiah. There was even a time limit: 70 years, but still the reality of it was hard to comprehend. When God does show up in the midst of our crisis – and He always does – it can seem beyond belief for us too. In the Psalm you can see the progression of emotion. First, there’s shock. Then there’s elation: “then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with singing” (v. 2). Then finally there’s realization and praise: “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (v. 3).
During the captivity there were many that died in exile, knowing that the fulfillment of the prophecy would not happen in their lifetime, yet they maintained their faith knowing that God keeps his promises. These taught the next generation of the hope that would come and exhorted them to live their lives for that day. Then there were those who resigned themselves to exile. They knew the prophecy too, but they held out no hope for themselves or the next generation. When the decree of Cyrus went out, 70 years after the start of the captivity, the king gave the Jewish people a choice: Go back to the Promised Land and rebuild the temple or stay where they were. Many opted to stay. Of those, many gave money and supplies, but still they themselves opted to stay, content with their new lives in a foreign land. Those who continued to hold on to hope and act upon it were a just a fraction of the whole.
Crisis can lead to despair and resignation, or it can lead to stronger faith. It can be especially hard to hope for God’s blessing when you know the crisis you’re in is one of your own making. So, God reminds us of people like the ones in this Psalm. The Captivity was a crisis of their own making, too and yet God was faithful to them. We serve a perfect God Who loves imperfect people. It’s not like when we sin against God that He says: “Whoa! I’ve never seen anyone do that before!” He’s seen it all. He’s dealt with it all, and for those who have humbled themselves and sought out His mercy, He’s forgiven it all. The people in Psalm 126 who were returning to Jerusalem were all forgiven people. God blessed them. He restored them. Would things be for them like they were in the glory days of Israel? No. God takes away the guilt of sin, not always the consequences, but these forgiven, restored people could still worship the God of glory. Because He is a perfect God Who loves imperfect people.
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Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash